Summertime Improv

Summertime Piano Improv

School’s out here, and we needed an absolutely no prep work activity.

What You Need:

  • Paper
  • Writing Utensil

Setup:

  • None

How to Play:

  • First, brainstorm about a few things that are fun to do in the summer. Swimming, climbing trees, jumping on a trampoline, etc., are all great choices.
  • When you’ve chosen an activity, ask the student questions and write down answers until you have a little story. For example, several of my students chose swimming:
    • How do you like to enter the pool? One toe at a time or cannonball? How would we portray that through music? Would it be slow or fast? Loud or soft? One gentle note at a time or an accented splat on the keys?
    • Once you are in the pool, what do you like to do? Swim laps? Dive deep? What is going to happen to the music?
    • Are there other people in pool? Will there be any splashing? Marco Polo? Flips upside down?
    • How does it end? Does everyone quietly and calmly dry off and go inside? Or is there one final cannonball at the end?
  • Once you have a sequence written down and the student understands what it means in musical terms, it’s time to play. I suggest playing in C major. Start out with a left hand pattern that matches the theme as best you can. Gently lapping water is fairly easy for swimming. Other subjects might not have such an obvious pattern, but that’s okay.
  • After listening to your introduction, the student should start improvising. Some of them will naturally move through the sequence on their own. Others you will have to tell when to move on to the next step and when to wrap it up.
  • Afterwards, talk about what was good about it and what could be added on a second run. For example, could they use more of the keyboard? Could the dynamic contrast be more dramatic? Could they add another sequence into their story? Play it again if you have time.

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